the leadership conference

9-10 October 2017,
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

Lead your team into shared power

participant speaking at #dareconf

You’ve been called to a position of leadership. You support your organisation’s values—things like integrity, transparency, and collaboration—but its actions don’t always reflect them. Leadership makes you uneasy because the popular narrative of power doesn’t address today’s challenges. For example, are strong and stable leaders effective? Do you want to take back control, or make your company great again? Surely there’s more to leadership than shouting, “you’re fired.”

You face a choice. The traditional style of leadership is domination—driven by fear—which seeks to control by taking power over others. It stifles creativity and leads to decisions that teams don’t support. The alternative is to use power with your team, driven by trust in their willingness to support choices that serve everyone. That means integrating different perspectives to help people see their shared goals.

Your choice isn’t easy, because both options have costs. Choose power over and you’ll stay safe by conforming with the culture of your organisation. The cost of your comfort is the harm caused when you attempt to meet organisational goals at the expense of people’s needs. Stress, low motivation, workplace conflict, and a lack of shared accountability are just the start. Choose power with and you’ll reduce harm and at the same time expose yourself to danger. You’ll break social norms, hold your colleagues accountable for their decisions, and face up to the consequences of your privilege. Leading in this way is a choice to put the welfare of the whole above your own comfort.

Which do you choose? Do you dare to lead your team into shared power?

on-stage conversation at #dareconf

At this 2-day conference you’ll learn how to:

  • step into the role of leader
  • apply power-with leadership techniques to common workplace challenges
  • lead your team into shared power by facilitating decisions that everyone is willing to support


Kenneth Hogg

Director, Local Government and Communities
Scottish Government

Convenes u.lab Scotland, a public participation programme for transformational change

Change starts here (TEDx talk)

Hannah du Plessis

Design for Social Innovation, School of Visual Arts
Carnegie Mellon School of Design
Principal, Fit Associates

Facilitator helping groups to create across difference

Three skills for transformation (TEDx talk)

Peter Fleming

Professor of Business and Society
Cass Business School, City University London

Author, The Mythology of Work

Your Job Is Pointless (interview with VICE)

Alex MacLaren

Director, The Spontaneity Shop

Improvisation coach for business leaders
Co-creator, The Charisma Key programme

Improvisation for leaders

Laura Morgan

Former Head of Product, Comic Relief

Technology leader using “manager-as-coach” methods

Lead by listening

Karen Lawson

Collaborative Learning Lead, Scottish Government

Supports public service leaders to collaborate
Organiser, Fire Starter Festival

What I Now Know About Lighting Fires

Andy Paice

Facilitator and mindfulness trainer

Convener, Reinventing Democracy

Democracy as a system of participation

Jonathan Kahn

Organiser, #dareconf

Helps groups find breakthrough solutions that everyone buys into

A forgotten management thinker can help business leaders to restore trust


Day 1: Monday 9 October 2017

08:30 Coffee and networking
Leadership at people scale
presented by Jonathan Kahn

“The business comes first”—it’s the mantra of modern management. Managers are expected to put productivity above wellbeing, enforce centralised strategies over team autonomy, and demand ideological conformity. It’s as if feeding the corporate machine is more important than the needs of the people you work with, the customers you serve, even the planet. Why is it so difficult to lead in a way that serves life? In this session you’ll learn:

  • why corporate ideology is bound to a financial system based on endless growth
  • what leadership at people scale looks like
  • how to integrate the needs of people, communities, and the planet
Workshop: Why are we here and what do we want to achieve?
facilitated by Jonathan Kahn

In this opening session we’ll set our intentions for the conference, together.

u.lab Scotland: How the Scottish Government learned to lead from a place of shared power
presented by Kenneth Hogg

u.lab Scotland is a public participation programme for transformational change supported by the Scottish Government. It’s based on u.lab, an online course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. u.lab provides tools to observe a whole system, to spend time sitting with a problem without trying to fix it, and to find ways to change the system through collaboration.

This was no ordinary government programme. Instead of bringing answers, civil servants brought questions. That meant letting go of control over issues they were responsible for—and questioning their entire approach to leading change. In this session you’ll learn:

  • tools to help groups understand the whole system around a problem, and to change the system through shared power
  • why the choice to lead people into shared power takes courage
  • how to connect personal change with systems change
10:30 Coffee break
Workshop: Step into the role of leader, part 1
facilitated by Alex MacLaren

Can you listen when you’re under pressure? Do you know when your ego governs your choices? Can you play to win and still enjoy losing?

Alex MacLaren is a master improvisation coach who has supported hundreds of people to step into leadership roles with confidence. In this 2-part workshop you’ll learn:

  • the three behaviours that create charisma in leaders
  • simple procedures you can use to step into the role of leader with confidence
  • how to create spaces where people make a deal to say “yes,” and build on each others’ ideas
12:30 Lunch (included)
Work, debt and the myth of endless accumulation
presented by Peter Fleming

In today’s workplaces we work harder and longer, believing that we’ll get more wealth as a result. It’s time to understand why we believe this myth, and where it came from. It started when economists created a fake persona driven by competition and ego, the “dollar-hunting man”. Today this persona is used by politicians and managers to obscure the reality of work under capitalism. If we’re going to find routes to shared power, we need to resist the desire to constantly compete and accumulate. In this session you’ll learn:

  • how the “dollar-hunting man” myth is used by economists and capitalists to manage our social world through the state, business, and even family
  • how to resist this model and move towards a more holistic vision of people, organisations, and communities
  • tips for facilitating shared power in your organisation
The manager as coach
presented by Laura Morgan

Traditional managers take power over their teams by asserting their authority, judging work, and giving orders. This stifles creativity and leads to decisions that people don’t support. The alternative is power with: instead of telling your team what to do, what if you behaved like a coach, supporting them to make their own decisions? This isn’t easy—it means letting go of offering the “right” answers—and the change of role from fixer to coach can be uncomfortable. But it supports people to grow and builds trust. In this session you’ll learn:

  • why active listening helps to build trust
  • how “manager as coach” practices enable shared power in teams
  • a simple coaching technique that you can use with your team
15:00 Coffee break
Workshop: Step into the role of leader, part 2
facilitated by Alex MacLaren
17:00 Day 1 ends

Day 2: Tuesday 10 October 2017

08:30 Coffee and networking
Shared power in theory and practice: a seminar on the work of Mary Parker Follett
presented by Andy Paice

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) was a major contributor to modern management thinking—Peter Drucker called her “the prophet of management”—but her work has been forgotten. She saw leadership as the ability to develop and integrate group ideas, which she called “power with”.

Follett argued that managers could replace personal power with the authority of the work itself, which she called the “law of the situation”, revealed through group consultation. She argued that cooperation is more effective for everyone than hierarchical control and competition. Follett saw group processes as a form of collective control, with decisions deriving naturally from everyone who is involved in the work. In her vision, control happens through the coordination of all functions instead of being imposed from the outside. In this session you’ll learn:

  • the theory behind the power-with leadership approach
  • case studies of shared power from business and politics
  • practical techniques for sharing power in your organisation
10:30 Coffee break
Workshop: Integrate different perspectives and find breakthrough solutions that everyone buys into
facilitated by Jonathan Kahn

The key to creating outcomes that work for everyone is to find willingness to stretch towards solutions that serve the whole. When stakeholders have different perspectives they can’t all have their preferred solution. But an imperfect solution that everyone buys into will be more effective for all than a compromise or any individual’s preference.

This session is an introduction to Convergent Facilitation, the approach used by Miki Kashtan to facilitate landmark reform of the Minnesota Child Custody system, transcending entrenched positions to find a collaborative solution to a previously unsolvable problem. You’ll learn how to:

  • support people to hear each other fully
  • establish shared principles
  • create proposals that everyone buys into
12:30 Lunch (included)
Tools for facilitating transformation in groups
presented by Hannah du Plessis (via live video link)

We’re invited to participate in creating a better world. But how can we do that without perpetuating the negative patterns in our society? In these turbulent times it’s getting harder to ignore the harm caused by the systems of oppression that we’re part of. We need to learn about the systemic nature of the challenges we face, and begin together on the long journey of transformation. In this session you’ll learn:

  • three skills for transformation: challenging limiting beliefs, integrating our fear, and processing past pain and trauma
  • how connecting with your place in the natural world can help you to facilitate transformation in groups
  • tips for practising healing work in challenging circumstances, from a change agent working in Trump’s America
Reforming public services by helping leaders to collaborate
presented by Karen Lawson

A 2011 government review found that Scotland’s public services are “in need of urgent and sustained reform”. Yet despite this commitment to change, progress is slow. Effective whole system change requires a systematic approach that draws on multiple perspectives, testing out new ways to learn from experience. The Pioneering Collaborative Leadership programme, which Karen leads, is an attempt to do this by supporting public service leaders to learn collaboration skills. In this session you’ll learn:

  • how to use the “action enquiry” approach to help senior managers to collaborate when they encounter complex problems
  • case studies from the programme that show how leaders can learn new approaches that consider everyone’s needs
  • tips for facilitating learning in your organisation
15:00 Coffee break
Workshop: Where is our power? How will we choose to use it?
facilitated by Andy Paice

In this closing session we’ll review our intentions from day 1, integrate our learnings, and make a group decision about how we’d like to use our power. You’ll leave with concrete actions for your own work, a renewed sense of purpose, and perhaps the beginnings of collective action with the people you’ve met at the conference.

17:00 Thank you and goodnight